Farmers do not constantly treat farm animals with antibiotics. When they do use antibiotics, they must follow ethical and legal requirements to do so according to label and dosing instructions approved by the FDA.
When sick animals are being treated, farmers and ranchers carefully and closely monitor them until they return to good health. If farmers did not treat sick animals, many would suffer and possibly die. This would be inhumane – and even those who say they are against antibiotic use agree that sick animals should be treated.
When animals being raised “antibiotic free,” including those on organic farms, get sick, they are treated with antibiotics. These animals are simply separated from the non-antibiotic group, are treated, and are later marketed as conventional after proper withdrawal times have elapsed.
John Zimmerman, a fourth-generation farmer and second-generation turkey farmer explains, “Just like when my son gets sick and needs antibiotics, we do use antibiotics to treat illness within our turkey population. I believe it’s inhumane to allow an animal to suffer when there are the means to make them healthy again. However, the thought of “pumping our birds full of antibiotics” is completely false. We only use them when absolutely essential. Our veterinarian will diagnose and prescribe an antibiotic if warranted and we provide this under our vet’s supervision. We do everything possible to avoid using antibiotics by maintaining a safe and healthy environment for our turkeys. Plus, we will vaccinate against disease, as well as use probiotics to keep our birds healthy and safe.” You can read his entire interview with registered dietitian Jen Haugen, here.